Let me just start by saying the Iowa football team doesn’t have a quarterback controversy.
The starting position still is Jake Rudock’s to lose even though backup C.J. Beathard clearly was more effective during Saturday’s scrimmage at Kinnick Stadium that concluded spring practice.
Beathard showed off his superior arm strength and was accurate with most of his throws, especially the frozen rope he threw to freshman receiver Derrick Willies for a 42-yard touchdown pass. Willies either had to make the catch or risk having the football wedged between his facemask. Beathard’s throw was that accurate.
“He had a good day today,” Rudock said of Beathard. “He had a good spring. He’s improved; you can see that.”
Rudock answered almost as many questions about Beathard’s performance Saturday as he did about his own, whereas Beathard didn’t answer any questions. Beathard wasn’t made available to the media Saturday, but the sophomore-to-be from Franklin, Tenn., did speak with the media after the open practice April 12 in West Des Moines.
Beathard said all the right things to the media two weeks ago, as did Rudock on Saturday. It’s a healthy competition at a position where a team never can have enough capable options.
Beathard wants what Rudock has, but Rudock, a junior-to-be from Weston, Fla., has made it difficult to warrant a change based on his performance last season.
By winning eight games, Iowa doubled its win total last season from the previous season and Rudock’s contributions from behind center had much to do with it. He wasn’t spectacular, and he wasn’t always steady as evidenced by his 13 interceptions. But Rudock still showed a knack for making key plays, especially in the first half of the season when both of his knees were healthy.
Beathard also flashed at times in a backup role last season. In addition to having a stronger arm, Beathard also is a tad quicker moving side-to-side than Rudock, Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis said.
“We feel very fortunate to have two players that were very confident in,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
That’s another reason why Iowa doesn’t have a quarterback controversy. The worst kind of quarterback controversy is one in which nobody meets an acceptable standard of performance.
Ferentz wasn’t sure if he had a quarterback controversy last spring because neither Rudock nor Beathard had taken a single snap in a game. Or perhaps that was the controversy.
It would’ve been asking a lot for Beathard to surpass Rudock on the depth chart during spring practice because it’s difficult to make a true and accurate evaluation while competing against your teammates. It’s also important to remember that Beathard played mostly against Iowa’s second-team defense on Saturday.
Ferentz has been criticized for being too stubborn and too loyal while delegating playing time. But in fairness, he’s shown a willingness to make changes, even at quarterback.
Just ask Jake Christensen.
He went from starting every game at quarterback during a mostly uninspiring 2007 season to only starting three games the next season.
Ferentz waited patiently for backup Ricky Stanzi to show that he was a better option than Christensen. When the time finally came about midway through the 2008 season, Ferentz made the switch permanently and Christensen never started another game for the Hawkeyes.
Christensen then transferred to Eastern Illinois for his senior season, while Stanzi led Iowa to the Orange Bowl following the 2009 season. The combination of Stanzi narrowing the gap in practice and the team struggling on the field ultimately led to Stanzi getting the nod over Christensen. Nothing measures a quarterback more than wins and losses.
The Iowa offense was mostly ineffective in 2007 with Christensen playing quarterback. The team finished 6-6, losing to Western Michigan in the regular-season finale. Iowa also was held to 13 or fewer points in five games that season.
There pressure was building on Christensen entering the 2008 season. Iowa won its first three games, but Stanzi kept gaining ground on Christensen in practice. Iowa then lost three games in a row before regrouping under Stanzi to win six of the last seven games, including a 31-10 victory over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
And though a starting quarterback is never free of pressure, Rudock’s situation isn’t similar to what Christensen faced six years ago. Rudock has the trust of the Iowa coaches and the record to prove it after his first season as a starter, whereas Christensen didn’t.
Rudock knows that he can’t relax or assume anything because for one, he’s a competitor who understands the value of hard work, and because the kid who looks more like Duane Allman just keeps getting better.
In fact, Beathard has improved enough that the Iowa coaches are considering using him in games this season, almost like they’re throwing him a bone for good behavior.
“I was always taught while growing up, ‘Never get complacent with where you’re at,’” Rudock said.
That lesson should pay dividends now.
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football